By Tom White
Many of us fear silence. No, it actually terrifies us! We are more comfortable trying to manage a tsunami of sounds than we are of embracing no sound at all. Perhaps this is no truer than when we must meet death and dying.
Hospice care is a term often associated with an almost reverent, and certainly gentle, extension of mercy to those judged to be near death. Peaceful and prayerful are common descriptions for the “environment” of hospice care. Somehow, we feel better when we have helped our loved one to be in embraced by this new womb.
Physicians of many descriptions have told us that quiet can be the best medicine when someone is ill. “They” will get better sooner when it is quiet; “they” will be able to calm themselves so the body can do what it is designed to do; “they” don’t feel like company anyway. These physicians implore us with lack of sight and sound to make their case for properly treating illness. This is the tsunami of sound we try and manage. We seem to prefer it to silence.
Yet it is never about what we manage. It is about our realization that the passing of a loved one is an action. It is a moving experience, and it is dynamic. It is transition and it is someone leaving us to be with God. Our loved one’s passing from our hands into the hands of another who also promises to love them.
Loving words are shared, sometimes in whispers. Tears flow and can be heard if we take the time. Songs of the heart are sung, occasionally with lyrics, all as we listen to the one we love. Our hearts may ache for a longer amount of time if we somehow miss this. We must be silent.
The silence many fear is not the absence of sound. Rather it is never hearing the voice of our loved one again in the same way. For those of us who have lost, we long for any sound that speaks the words of love, beauty and laughter coming from the mouth and heart of our loved one. The quiet of healing is actually for us as we let our minds rest in order to remember. The cocoon of hospice is to give us that place in time when we lean-in to grasp the hand and listen for the sounds of love. Silence is not to be feared for it is in silence that we may hear, once gain, the voice of our loved one.
In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, when we BURY THE DEAD as a work of mercy, we are fortunate to have many who help us when we are in need. Our entire parish staff is present for and attentive to the needs of the grieving as well as for the liturgy itself. Ms. Dee Carver, the Maintenance Supervisor at Holy Family, or another staff member is always present when the remains or cremains are brought to Holy Family. The meal provided by the Women of St. Joseph following the funeral liturgy is an extension of that same Eucharist in a most warm and welcomed way.
Through those helping during a time when the world seems to be at a stand-still, we are able to be silent, hear our loved ones, and heal along with them.